Stella Donnelly burst onto the scene in 2017, holding toxic masculinity to account with the raging ‘Boys Will Be Boys’.
Since then, the Perth native has proven she isn’t afraid to advocate for what she believes in. It’s fitting that her debut album ‘Beware Of The Dogs’ is out today, International Women’s Day. Georgia spoke with Stella last week about the album, her Welsh heritage, and the music industry’s gender issues.
I was reading the bio that Secretly Canadian had on you, and it said that you feel that this album made you feel like “you were back in the driver's seat”. Which song means the most to you on the album?
They all mean something to me for different reasons. I think it's really important to not change the way that I wrote music just because all of a sudden, there are people out there who like troll me or something. So I think it's really important to kind of be strong and write to speak out and write something that is meaningful to me. I think my favourite song is ‘Lunch’ just because it feels very close to home and it just feels really kind of personal.
There's a bit of quirky stuff in the album, particularly the outro of ‘Tricks’.
Why was it included? How did it come about? Because I really like it [laughs].
Thank you! There was like five of us around the microphone, so we did like ten takes of the same track. Then back in our headphones we started hearing what we'd done in the last take playing back to us and then we were recording over it. We all just started being really good at overlaying and you could hear Jenni playing like a cat and trying to scratch my neck. There was all this different stuff going on and it just captured the whole song so well, it just captured the energy behind it when we were recording it. I wanted to keep because it made me smile every time I heard it.
Yeah for sure, it reminded me of a school yard.
Yeah, definitely, definitely. It's a very natural sort of thing.
On the Secretly Canadian site it says you're "a proud, self-proclaimed shit-stirrer".
I don't know about that.
Well that's what they've got you as [laughs]. Is there was one particular moment of shit-stirring that you are most proud of?
There was one thing, I captured my Dad calling me "a fucking dumbfuck" on Instagram when he was trying to do a reverse park and I was filming him and I was like "Dad watch out!" [laughs].
I saw you and Alex the Astronaut play last year, and you did this really good cover of Jimmy Eat World. Who are your influences for this new record?
Well definitely not Jimmy Eat World [laughs]. I don't know if I have any influences for the record. A lot of the music that I grew up listening to a lot kind of accidentally influenced me. I definitely listened a lot of Paul Kelly. I got a sense that the lyrics are the most important thing, and then the guitar kind of complements that. So I definitely took from a lot of that from the childhood listening that I'd done.
I saw was that the other day you released the Welsh lyric video for ‘Old Man’. It seems like quite a niche release, how did that idea come about?
Well I grew up in Wales, so my mum is Welsh, and I went to a Welsh school, and so half of the family are Welsh-speaking. And it's really important to me that the language is kept alive. The Welsh language has been something that I guess the English have tried to get rid of it a bit. It's my way of showing solidarity with the Welsh-speaking community. There might not be as many who speak that language anymore, but it's an important part of my life and my family's life, so that my way of kind of tipping my hat to them.
I don't know if you've seen the stuff that's sort of come out over the past few days in the Australian music industry. But at least for me, that's highlighted the difficulties that a lot of non-male acts have in the industry, and the privileges that we still afford to male acts. So I'm not expecting you to address those specific issues directly, because I understand it's very complex, but just more generally, how do you think we get the tide to turn in the Australian industry?
I mean I think it comes down to the brave people who have spoken out and I guess put their heads on the block in a way to create that change. They were met with absolute protests and anger and abuse when they spoke out about it. But the conversation we have now talks about these issues. I think that has created that change, it's been young women who have created that change. But also I think it's the compassion of the men in higher positions. They do hold the power still, but they have become aware of that. You have that privilege to create a platform. I think it comes down to working together on it, but it's still a long way to go. I would like Australia to be aware of that at the same time, and use that to create a space for women of colour or anyone of colour that haven't had the right to be treated well. I think it comes from a lot of things.
It's a very complex issue I think.
A bit lighter again, but who are your favourite artists at the moment? Either up-and-coming or just what you're listening to?
Oh my God. Julia Jacklin's new record is incredible. I have not stopped listening to that. I've been listening to Aldous Harding who just put a song out, I'm loving it. I just played with Baker Boy. Incredible, I've never seen someone dance and rap at the same time. It's crazy. Who else? There are just so many artists.
You played the Opera House Forecourt the other day, and then you're going to playing Golden Age Cinema. How do you sort of balance that act from such a huge venue to such a tiny venue?
Oh my God. I'm so used to the tiny venue type of thing. The Opera House is sort of this special occasion. I'm definitely more used to the small rooms. I guess you just have to try to create that small space and make it comfortable and not so big. You just have to focus on the people that are watching you.
This interview first appeared on Blitz UNSW. The full interview can be found here.